A colleague, who knows I love my food, told me of a recent find, The Khukuri, a Nepalese restaurant in Edinburgh’s West End, not far from Haymarket. When I heard that Masterchef judge, Gregg Wallace had also recently paid a visit after the Calcutta Cup, I thought if it’s good enough for him then it’s definitely good enough for an EdinburghFoody.
A restaurant I first visited twice in my early days in Edinburgh, 18 years ago, I remember having one of the best curries I had ever eaten but sadly I hadn’t been back. Put it down to too much choice in the city and being completely the wrong end of town for me.
If it’s good enough for Gregg Wallace, it’s good enough for us
It’s recently changed ownership, and is now in the more than capable hands of Mukesh Sharma, whose background is not in hospitality and who has recently moved to Edinburgh from West London with a dream of opening a restaurant. It’s a brave move but the word seems to be out that this is a great place to eat. Their promise is to serve sensational food, rivaled by only one thing – their dedication to serving up an impeccable customer experience and that’s exactly what we got.
The interior’s had a makeover and it’s light and airy, with decoration native to Nepal.
Out dining again with the Social Bitches
On the Friday night I visited with my partners in crime, aka the Social Bitches, the restaurant was busy, despite the scaffolding obscuring its entrance. Don’t let that put you off though as it was still busy, with an equal measure of walk-ins and booked customers, including an ex-colleague, a marketing director from my days in the drinks’ industry, who was a regular and had booked because “it’s local to him and they serve great food”!
Mukesh had taken out the hassle of choosing from the extensive menu and had chosen a mix of what he knew would represent traditional Nepalese dishes and also the restaurant’s specialties. There’s also other curries that most people will be familiar with but it was great to go off the beaten track for a change.
Nepalese food – a marrying of various cultures
Nepalese food is often considered a combination of ingredients, flavours and cooking styles of a variety of cultures including China, Tibet and of course, India.
But it is often India that it is most closely compared to. Largely, perhaps, due to the bright colours, amazing, rich flavours, a variety of ingredients, cooking styles and, largely, its spice.
While it does share some similarities with Indian food and takes influences from its neighbour, Nepalese food is still very much a unique international cuisine.
We started with some poppadoms, and the Khukuri’s pickle tray, with four little dishes of mango chutney, which is diluted with mango pulp with some fennel seeds; a yoghurt raita with mint sauce; spiced onion, tomato; and of course, lime pickle.
This was followed by a mix of vegetable and chicken momos. Traditionally from Tibet, but which have become a staple of Nepalese cuisine with the influx of Tibetans fleeing over the border, these pretty steamed dumplings are often served in a broth but can also come with a dipping sauce, often made with tomatoes as a base. Ours were served with a dipping chutney, made from vine tomatoes, ginger, garlic, spring onions, white sesame seeds, which had been blended to a smooth sauce. It was a lovely accompaniment for all the starters.
The chicken momo were made with ginger, minced chicken, garlic and Sichuan pepper, whilst the vegetable ones contained leeks, carrots, cabbage, and spring onions being the dominant, but not over-powering flavour. They were beautiful and light and took me back to my travels in Darjeeling, many years ago.
Mukesh also served us Bara, which is an authentic dish, native to Kathmandu. A traditional lentil pancake made with ground black lentils, garlic, ginger and spices accompanied with the same distinctly spicy chutney as had accompanied the momo, it was rather like a tattie scone and rather comforting.
The boys were also served a thukpa soup, with king prawns but with my seafood allergy, Mukesh had kindly substituted mine with a chicken based one. Traditional to the Himalayas, thukpa is a broth, with noodles. I thought it might be like Tom Yum soup but it didn’t have anything like the spice and whilst it contained chili, wasn’t overly spicy. It was more warming, salty and rather delicious but it did fill me up.
So much food but they’re happy to pack you a doggy-bag!
For mains, we had lamp chop curry, cooked in a special sauce with potatoes, tomatoes, coriander and garnished with fresh slices of spring onion; mine and Derek’s absolute favourite was a chicken nuani masala, cooked in a tandoor, mixed with lightly Himalayan spiced tomato gravy cream, ginger, garlic, almond and cashew nut powder and which was similar to a butter chicken; and the final dish, a king prawn piro piro, which was a medium spiced curry cooked with ginger, garlic, spring onion, cinnamon, nutmeg, roasted cumin and two spices exclusive to Nepal – Jimbu and Timur. I had to take the boys word for it that it was delicious as with my shell-fish allergy, I didn’t want to risk it.
The mains were accompanied with a mushroom pilau rice, a pilau rice, keema and garlic naans – the perfect accompaniments for any curry dishes.
There was a lot of food and we couldn’t do justice to it but Mukesh asked, if we wouldn’t be offended by it, whether he could pack it up and whether we could find a homeless person who might be rather grateful of it. I didn’t mind in the slightest and nor did the recipient of the gift – a rather lovely touch, meaning no food waste either.
Our perfect evening was finished off with a light and creamy pistachio kulfi with crushed cardamon, served in the prettiest pottery pot. Whilst not home-made, it was still delicious, a palate cleanser and a much lighter dessert, very similar to an ice-cream, and a much better choice than the originally promised rice-pudding. I’m not sure I would have been able to do justice to that after the feast we had had.
The Khukuri is definitely a hidden gem that I’m happy to have rediscovered after all these years. I definitely won’t be leaving it this long next time. Nepal is known for being the land of smiles and that’s exactly what we had on our faces as we departed.
8 West Maitland Street (near Haymarket Station)
Edinburgh EH12 5DS
Tel: 0131 228 2085
Kerry dined as a guest of the Khukuri